Soldiers of the 173d Airborne Brigade use Lineage and Honors information to verify the Campaign and Decoration Streamers for the Unit Colors. (Photograph posted courtesy of Stephen Harding, Soldiers magazine.)
After approval and review, U.S. Army unit awards are officially confirmed in Department of the Army General Orders, but these are infrequently published for a limited audience and usually omit the award citations to save space.
With the permission of the Awards and Decorations Branch, U.S. Army Human Resources Command (HRC), and as a courtesy to Army units, Soldiers, and veterans, CMH ONLINE is posting the HRC permanent orders which are usually issued to the decorated unit along with its decoration streamer, certificate and citation for newly authorized awards (not campaign credit). The orders contain in one document the key information on the type of award, the decorated unit(s), the recognized period of service, and the official citation summarizing the reason for the award. Orders will be posted as they are received from HRC, who remains responsible for their content.
Go To Retroactive Awards
The Combat Arms Regimental System: Questions and Answers
Determination of Official Army Campaigns
Unique Recognition for Selected Units
"Loss" of Colors
An official Special Designation is a "nickname granted to a military organization" which has been authorized by the Center of Military History and recognized through a certificate signed by the Chief of Military History. Once approved, these designations may only be used by the officially recognized unit.
A list of the officially approved Special Designations is follows. Two sets of tables are included, one showing the designations arranged by unit number (with the special designations appearing in the right column) and the other listing displays the special designations alphabetically (with unit's currently numerical designation appearing to the right).
By Unit Number
By Special Designation
Special Designations appear on the list in capital letters. Unofficial designations are also not included. For example, the 1st Cavalry often uses "Black Hawk," but officially adopted 1st REGIMENT OF DRAGOONS. The 4th Armored Division is sometimes called the "Breakthrough Division, but the division never officially pursued the designation, preferring to be "known by its deeds alone."
Requesting a Special Designation
In most cases, only units authorized an organizational color, distinguishing flag, or guidon (excluding organic elements of color-bearing organizations) are entitled to special designations. Units wishing official recognition of special designations need to send written requests on unit letterhead to the Commander, U.S. Army Center of Military History, ATTN: AAMH-FPO, 102 4TH AVE BLDG 35, FORT MCNAIR DC 20319-5060. Please include the reason for your selection with a brief statement of why the designation has meaning to the unit. Once approved, a certificate signed by the Chief of Military History, attesting to your unit's selection will be forwarded upon completion. Special designations will also appear on any new Lineage and Honors Certificates issued to unit, and will be added to the listing of official special designations posted on CMH ONLINE.
NOTE: There is often confusion between a motto and a special designation, but the former is a heraldic item controlled by The Institute of Heraldry, while the latter is usually a unit "nickname." For example, the 3d Infantry's special designation as THE OLD GUARD, stems from General Winfield Scott's description of the unit as The Old Guard of the Army. The regiment's motto is NOLI ME TANGERE (Do Not Touch Me). The intent of the special designation program was not to duplicate an existing motto, but to provide units with another opportunity to express a direct association "with some person, place, thing, event, or function having particular significance to the unit [see Chapter 6, AR 870-5]." In short, it is a way in which unit personnel and others can refer to the unit.
The Army of the United States
Historical sketches of the Army branches and its regiments through the 1880's
Order of Battle for U.S. Army Divisions in World War II European Theater of
prepared by the ETO Historical Office, December 1945
FM 3-21.5 Drill and Ceremonies (10MB PDF)
This link is provided as a service to units seeking information on conducting activation, inactivation, and other unit ceremonies. Despite the use of the term "deactivation" when describing some ceremonies in the FM, the official Army term is "inactivation." Bombs are deactivated, units are inactivated.
War Department General Orders Number 24, 4 March 1947
Provides time and geographic criteria for World War II campaigns
Department of the Army General Orders Number 43, 19 December 1950 – [11mb PDF]
Provides a list of U.S. Army units to which decorations were awarded by cobelligerent foreign governments during World War II, together with their accompanying citations.